After months of searching, Palo Alto officials Wednesday tapped a veteran of the Police Department and a well-known figure to the city's robust coalition of emergency-preparedness volunteers to head the fledgling Office of Emergency Services.
Dueker, a genial, tech-savvy officer who has been serving as an interim director of the new department, beat out more than 50 other candidates and six other finalists for the $125,000 a year job, according to an announcement from City Manager James Keene.
Dueker has been active in the Citizen Corps Council (a coalition of businesses, agencies and cities working together on disaster preparation) and led various initiatives relating to emergency preparedness. These include the deployment of the mobile "Emergency Operations Center" and the recent citywide Safety Fair and the Quakeville camp-out exercises.
Annette Glanckopf, a member of the Citizen Corps Council and also the panel that interviewed the finalists, praised the appointment, citing Dueker's intelligence, organization skills and knowledge of Palo Alto.
"The man is definitely a visionary, and I think we wouldn't have gotten as far as we have in our efforts if it hadn't been for some of the thoughts and the vision that Ken has," she said. "He is a great team builder, and he is respected all over the city and the county."
Dueker's new position is the latest stage in a distinguished police career that has seen him rise from a reserve police officer to a patrolman and a detective before becoming involved full-time in disaster planning and community preparedness. Glanckopf credited him with bringing structure to the Citizen Corps Council and for bringing technical savvy to disaster preparedness -- a subject that remains one of the City Council's official priorities.
"He's been a perfect example of someone who can break down silos and get people to work together," Glanckopf said.
Dueker's experiences in emergency preparedness go well beyond Palo Alto and law enforcement. In 2003, he founded the start-up company PowerFlare Corporation, which designs eco-friendly LED lights. He remains on the company's board of directors. He has also served as a chief operating officer for the Santa Clara-based fiber-optics company C Speed Corporation. Dueker also worked in the early 1990s as a corporate emergency planner for the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO). According to the city's announcement, he worked at ARCO's Los Angeles headquarters and gained experience during the 1994 earthquake in Northridge.
Dueker holds a bachelor's degree from Pomona College, a law degree from Harvard University, various emergency-management certifications and an amateur radio license.
Keene selected Dueker after a interview process featuring two interview panels that included emergency-operations professionals, top police and fire staff, neighborhood leaders and department heads from City Hall. After the two panels provided their recommendations, Keene interviewed the five finalists and chose Dueker.
"I am honored to have this role to improve the resilience of our City through our stakeholders, such as the neighborhoods, our businesses, Stanford University, and others in our community," Dueker said in a statement. "In a major disaster, we will all benefit from the investment in the relationships and structures that we are creating."
Dueker's appointment is the most significant step in the city's disaster-preparedness effort since the council decided last summer to create the Office of Emergency Services. The city has traditionally coordinated its emergency response and preparedness by activating an "Emergency Operations Center" in the City Hall basement and having representatives from various departments meet there during major events to plan the city's response.
The new office was created to improve coordination between city departments and support the various volunteer groups that have been working on preparing the city for emergencies. Glanckopf and other volunteers have previously characterized the city's grassroots-based operation as an orchestra without a conductor. Dueker will be expected to fill this role.
Earlier this year, the city commissioned an independent study to assess the city's emergency-preparedness operation. The study, by the group Urban Resilience Policy, highlighted a number of deficiencies and concluded that under the previous system the city's Office of Emergency Services "does not have the authority to overcome planning and preparedness deficiencies."
The City Council is scheduled to approve Dueker's contract, which includes the $125,000 salary, on Monday (Dec. 12). If the contract is approved as expected, he would begin his new position the following day.